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Doha Climate Summit Ends, Did They Manage to Save the World? Here's What You Need to Know

Like last year’s Durban climate summit, three distinct negotiating streams produced three overlapping but independent agreements.

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CAP has been on record since 2010 in support of a “ramp up” period from the fast start finance to 2020.  Our  2010 report with the Alliance for Climate Protection and Climate Advisers made the compelling case that 1) it would be nearly impossible to jump from the fast start period to the 2020 period without a ramp-up of funding through the rest of this decade, 2) the amount needed for the ramp-up period was fairly modest, in the range of $60 billion from all developed countries by 2015 for a start, and 3) this amount would be sufficient to close the ambition gap between what parties pledged to do under the LCA track and the emission reductions needed by 2020 to keep the door open to eventually stabilizing temperatures at 2 degrees Celsius later on.

It was no doubt very difficult to draft acceptable language on increasing ambition on finance right now, especially in the current economic climate.  But given that the US has already  indicated that it will attempt to maintain its current levels of climate finance ($7.5 billion in the fast start period), and given that several other parties with less cumbersome processes for setting budgets for such efforts have already announced an increase in their funding over the next few years, then the parties should at least have been able to come up with some kind of aspirational language for a ramp-up period.  We have likely not seen the last of this issue and will address US capacity to move forward on climate finance at the end.

Loss and Damage

In 2007, the Bali Action Plan mandated parties to explore “means to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change” – effects which included extreme weather events and slow onset events such as ocean acidification and sea level rise. Three years later, at the Cancun Climate Change Conference in 2010, Parties  established a loss and damage work program as part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework, and requested that the Subsidiary Body on Implementation of the convention to make recommendations on loss and damage to the full body for its consideration at this year’s Doha meeting.  Whether and to what extend the parties could agree to act on these recommendations also came close to crashing this track of the negotiations.

The work program of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation  explored the effects of loss and damage in three areas: 1) it assessed the risk of loss and damage associated with climate change, 2) it developed a range of approaches to address loss and damage, and 3) it worked with the convention to enhance implementation of the approaches, taking submissions from Parties and civil society.

In Doha this momentum turned into a call for more concrete steps forward.  Someisland countries sought loss and damage funds through an insurance mechanism for the effects of climate change.  The positions that emerged over such proposals were very far apart.  One negotiator – Malia Talakai of Nauru –  said such a loss and damage fund would need to be “much more” than the $100 billion in climate aid promised by developed countries. U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing said that the U.S. doesn’t approve of any “liability-based structure.”  The U.S. has also  said there are already initiatives, including the UN adaptation committee, that deal with loss and damage issues.

At the end of the conference, Parties  agreed to discuss the establishment of an international mechanism to address loss and damage to be taken up at the next climate summit in Warsaw.  The run up to this discussion will include an expert meeting to consider possible approaches to address slow onset events of climate change, preparation of a technical paper on non-economic losses to climate change, and preparation of a technical paper on gaps in institutional arrangements to address loss and damage, both within and outside the UN process.  Just as importantly, the parties agreed to the “promotion of livelihood and economic diversification to build resilience” in planning, priority setting and implementation of adaptation actions.  Given how difficult it would be to every build something akin to a global FEMA fund to address damages to climate change, the best use of limited resources may be on resilience rather than response.

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